The Short History

Interlisp is a software development environment, originating from Xerox PARC in the 1970s and 1980s. supporting software research in AI, computational linguistics, graphical user interfaces, hypertext, and other research areas. Software development in Interlisp-D is a different experience than is common, even today. The features of structure editing, source code management, code analysis and cross-referencing combined to support rapid incremental development. The 1992 ACM Software System Award was awarded to the Interlisp system for pioneering work in programming environments.

Interlisp evolved from an interactive terminal style programming tool to Interlisp-D – GUI and the entire operating system for the Xerox Lisp machines (called D-machines, named Dorado, Dolphin, Dandelion, Daybreak) with a common byte-code virtual machine. The virtual machine was then ported to C for Sun Unix and many other Unix systems, and the system was extended to support the Common Lisp standard as well.

Development of the system moved from Xerox PARC to a Xerox AI Systems division, to a spin-out company called Envos, to a smaller company called Venue. The system was called Interlisp, Interlisp-D, and various named releases (Koto, Lyric, Medley) until the name “Medley” was used for the whole thing.

Detailed History

A more extensive history of Interlisp can be found in the Interlisp Timeline. The Interlisp Bibliography has a wealth of historical material.